Cyprus was featured on CNN’s Around the World video section, where special reporter Matthew Chance highlighted the controversial passport scheme which grants citizenship to wealthy foreign nationals.
The video highlights the luxurious lifestyle and booming real estate in Limassol, the southern resort town dubbed “Limassolgrad” for its many Russian-speaking residents, while also makes the point that Russian money can influence politics in Cyprus.
Daily Politis editor Dionysis Dionysiou, who was interviewed in the video, pointed out there is foreign economic and politic influence on the island as a result of wealthy Russians buying passports in droves.
The Republic of Cyprus, the biggest European investor in Russia, has been taking heat in recent years from other countries, primarily EU member states, who criticise the island for abusing its own passport programme where wealthy foreign nationals, including Russians, essentially buy Cypriot passports.
While the programme is designed to draw in millions in investment and development money in exchange for citizenship to individuals who make a lasting business commitment to the island, many reports from local and foreign media have pointed out a major loophole which allows investors to give up their business interests in Cyprus years later but still keep their EU-wide passports.
Recently the local government was accused of failing do proper vetting on Russian passport candidates, raising concern among EU member states that Cyprus was just a quick and easy way to buy EU citizenship.
Cyprus says it does proper vetting
Notable recipients of Republic of Cyprus passports included Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a super wealthy industrialist with connections to Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Despite a number of red flags throughout the process, including concerns over allegations that Deripaska served as a back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, the Cypriot government approved the application in 2017 and insists that it is conducting proper checks before cases are adjudicated.
Cyprus has given citizenship to over 1600 foreign nationals in the last ten years, mostly from Russia and former Soviet states but also China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to The Guardian, and another 1600 passports to immediate family members were granted in the €4.8 billion “golden visa” deal.